Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Castle Danger Brewery: Danger Is My Middle Name...

On our recent trip to Duluth we took a day trip up north to Split Rock lighthouse and its surrounding environs.  We very randomly discovered that my cousin IZ and his wife Emily were visiting her parents in Knife River--right along our route to the light house!  After a wonderful meal at the New Scenic Café just north of Duluth along Scenic 61, we met up with my family for a bit.  Emily's parents own a beautifully renovated home on an old camp site right on Lake Superior with lake access.  We had a great time hanging out, hunting for agates and drinking some Canal Park Maibock from a growler IZ had waiting for us.

After getting a sunburned neck, we were back on our way up north to hit the lighthouse.  We ignored the movie about the place, but checked out the small interactive museum in the visitor center.  They have tours every half hour, but we were behind schedule and did it on our own.  The light house itself is very cool, affording a lot of picture opportunities for a budding iPhonographer like myself.  There are also some short trails around the buildings and a really long set of steps down to the lake that parallels the old rail-line that used to bring food and supplies from the shore up to the keeper's

On the way home, we were able to stop off at the tiny Castle Danger Brewery located in the town of the same name.  Possibly the coolest name for a city and brewery that I've heard of.  From the website:   "The brewery is situated at Castle Haven Cabins, a small family resort in Castle Danger also run by Clint & Jamie.  The land was originally homesteaded by Jamie's great-grandfather in 1902.  Her grandfather Marcus Lind built the first cabin in 1933."  Down a long dirt road just off HWY 61, this place is easy to miss.  Neither phone nor car GPS will not get you there correctly...I speak from experience!  Use the directions from the website (if you can get cell service out there, which was iffy for us.)  We almost let it go, but eventually managed to find our way out to this interesting site.

Nestled in amongst well-kept cabins along the lake shore, we found the small, red garage/shed where the brewery itself is located.  They have no tap room and are a production brewery only, however they have limited open hours for tours, and growler and merch sales.  We happened in during the correct time period (mostly because of using up some afternoon with family, so it all worked out great!)  The brewery itself houses a 3 barrel brew system that is just a small step up from the stainless system I brew on at home!  So cute!  I enjoyed being taller than the kettle and the fermenters, it doesn't happen often.  They were doing a brisk business, with plenty of locals and tourists popping in for some growlers and shirts.  They had 4 taps and were serving samples in small cups so we could try the beers at the brewery.  I wasn't convinced this would be the case based on the info from the website, and was glad I had a chance to try them all.  I really liked the flagship Danger Ale: called an American strong ale on the website, but what I would call a malty pale ale.  They had a cream ale and a hoppy wheat beer on as well that were both respectable.  We didn't end up getting any growlers, mainly because we had already gathered a few from other breweries on this trip to Duluth.  In lieu of supporting them by buying beer, I'm writing this to get the word out! 

Overall I think this place is an interesting experiment.  It feels more like a hobby or labor of love than a brewery that has plans to take over the Minnesota beer market.  The brewer/owner, Clint MacFarlane, is self trained as a homebrewer and has managed to use the land they already own as a place for the brewery.  Apparently they recently hired a second brewer who has been trained at Siebel, and that should only improve the quality and quantity of beer they can put out.  I did see a sign in the brewery that said proceeds from merchandise would go toward purchasing a larger brewhouse, so they obviously have plans to increase production in the future.  One can find the beer on tap around the Duluth area and up north as far as Grand Marais.  Check them out if you are in the area, but check for directions and hours of operation before you make the trip!

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